With Case Backlog at PERB Board, Direct Action Continues to be the Quickest Way to Force Employers to Comply with the Law

Those working in the public sector know that the backlog of cases at the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) is a real issue. In fact, some cases being decided by the PERB Board today date back 5 years.
Some speculate that one of the primary sources of the backlog is unfilled positions. Although there are 57 total positions budgeted for, there were 9.5 vacancies last year. Considering that PERB oversees eight statutes, which cover over 2.3 million state and local government employees, it is no wonder that a nearly 20% vacancy rate has an adverse effect on the processing time of cases. In 2015, even the most common unfair labor practice case took an average of 137 days. In the past 20 years, unfair practices charges have doubled, yet the number of staff at PERB has stayed about the same. To make matters worse, on February 29, 2016, it became clear that Governor Jerry Brown was not going to re-appoint PERB Board Member Eugene Huguenin, leaving a vacancy on the PERB Board. Member Huguenin was viewed as an ally of labor.

So why do these positions remain vacant if filling them would relieve some of the backlog? According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, PERB has relied on the funding that had been allocated to fill vacancies to instead pay for “higher-than-budgeted costs associated with personnel and operations and equipment.” Last year, about $767,000 was redirected to pay for such costs.

There may be some hope for the backlog, however. Recently, Governor Brown proposed a budget increase in 2016-2017 of about $885,000, to fund 5 more positions at PERB. If this funding is approved and used to fill the positions, it would have a positive impact on the case backlog. It is unclear whether that funding will be used to fill the vacant position on the PERB Board.

Direct action, as opposed to filing unfair practice charges, continues to be the fastest and often most effective way for organized labor to force employers to comply with the law.

If you have any questions regarding PERB, please contact the lawyers in our office with whom you work with most often.

By Tiffany Crain Altamirano| March 25, 2016

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